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Explosion Starts Oil Fire (1933)

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

No Sound on Film | 1933

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  •  Onlookers approach the oil fire with protective shields 
  •  One man rescues another from the blaze 
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"Remarkable pictures of a burning gusher that shakes houses seven miles away when it ‘goes up' and which defies all attempts to quench its roaring flames." [From original Universal Newsreel content sheet.] This Universal Newsreel contains dramatic footage of an oil well fire near Conroe, Texas. Men approach the blaze behind protective shields and a crane pours dirt over the flames. Conroe, Texas, like many East Texas towns, enjoyed an oil boom in the 1930s. This newsreel is believed to depict the Conroe well fires of 1933. Two wells a mile apart, the Standard of Kansas No. 1 Madeley and the Southland Oil No. 2 Cummings, both burst into flame the morning of January 12th. The Madeley was particularly difficult to get under control, with nitroglycerine blasts and dirt fill proving unsuccessful. The well cratered, swallowing the derrick and other nearby rigs, resulting in huge damages. After drilling many relief wells, the fires were eventually brought under control, but had created a large oil-filled "crater well" in the Conroe oilfield.